Freelancing: you need to know your rights

If you want to freelance, it’s best to follow some simple tips in order to ensure you get paid.

The 21st November 2012 was National Freelancers Day, and along with the celebration of all things self-employment related came the news that as many as four million Britons now consider themselves to be freelancers.

Freelancing is the modern answer to many employment-related ills. Most freelancers work in fields they like, are their own boss, and earn more than they would in an equivalent salaried job. They can’t, however, take holiday or sick leave, and more often than not they struggle to get paid.

In fact, getting paid is one of the biggest issues for freelancers, and forms the subject of many a forum debate or late night Twitter rant.

The first piece of advice to any freelancer is to have a clear system for the commissioning of work. A contractual relationship can be founded on the flimsiest of premises, a verbal agreement, an email, a phone chat, but proving a contract is difficult and therefore freelancers should only ever work once a written agreement is received.

Ideally, all work should be carried out in accordance with some pre-agreed terms and conditions that flesh out what happens if work is not delivered, a process for having work amended and the rates of pay. Your legal rights to redress when things go wrong is in contract law, so setting out some terms in advance can really help.

Invoicing is everyone’s least favourite job, but doing it regularly, properly and recording the dates of invoices sent and their due date is a good way to stay on top of money owed and exposure to individual clients.

You should always agree payment terms in advance with the accounts department of your client. You may bill on seven days, but if they run a monthly purchase ledger then your invoices will almost always be overdue, so in this respect it pays to be flexible.

Legal rights
Your legal right to payment exists in contract law. So if a client goes beyond your agreed payment terms you should send a letter detailing the money owed, including a copy of the invoice. This can be followed with a second, stronger letter requesting payment in full within 21 days. This second letter may threaten legal action.

If a client fails to pay, you are best advised to seek redress through the County Court system. This can be initiated online in most cases. Here is where your previous good organisation will pay off, as you should have access to necessary supporting documents, including letters sent and email correspondence. If you do this, remember that legal fees cannot be claimed for debts under £5,000 – so ensure the cost of any legal advice does not exceed the money you are chasing.

Ultimately, a court case is unlikely to engender a positive working relationship going forward, so the best solution is to negotiate payment. Think about why you weren’t paid. If your client has no money, they probably aren’t worth working for again, but if they didn’t like your work, then you need to think about why and set about making some changes.

*This article was written by experts at Contact Law. To find out more on freelancing and contract law feel free to visit Contact Law.





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